Thursday, June 21, 2012
"Face of Things to Come?"
When last I wrote, a member of an Israeli crew working on the fence being constructed on our border with Sinai -- precisely to prevent infiltration into Israel -- had just been killed by terrorists who had crossed over from Sinai. (According to one report, one terrorist shot by the IDF was wearing a suicide belt, and planning considerably greater damage.)
This followed by two days the launching of two Grad Katyusha rockets from the Sinai into the Negev.
Then, very shortly after the attack at the fence, rocket attacks from Gaza began.
The army statement at that time was that there was no connection between the Gaza rocket launchings and the terrorist attack out of the Sinai. Such coincidental timing left me a bit dubious.
While the situation is still muddled and confused in many ways, I would like to begin today with a report from Barry Rubin of the GLORIA Center. Rubin said (and this has now been confirmed) that the terrorists who attacked at the fence adjacent to the Sinai had come out of Gaza. When he wrote, there were unconfirmed reports that these men were Hamas.
"This event follows a report in Haaretz newspaper, attributed to Israeli security officials, that the Muslim Brotherhood had asked Hamas to attack Israel...This story was not picked up by other Israeli newspapers, suggesting either that it was wrong or that it had been a security leak which the army had then stopped."
The significance of this is considerable, according to Rubin: "...we are now at the beginning of Egypt’s involvement, directly or indirectly, in a new wave of terrorist assault on Israel." He sees the possibility that Egyptian Islamists would not only provide support to Hamas, but allow Hamas infiltration into Egypt and Hamas bases on Egyptian soil, where Israel would not be able to pursue them.
I share this speculative piece by Rubin not because it is correct in all its details. In fact, according to a report today, the Israeli Air Force has now hit the cell in Gaza -- near Rafah -- that orchestrated the terrorist attack at the Sinai border on Monday. One terrorist from that cell who was killed, Raleb Armilat, was Islamic (or Global) Jihad affiliated, not Hamas; he was an aide to a senior member of IJ, who was badly wounded.
So much for Hamas having gone into Egypt at the Brotherhood's behest.
But, as I pointed out earlier, it was Hamas that celebrated the apparent (it is not a sure thing even now!) win by the Brotherhood candidate in the Egyptian presidential elections. And I've just picked up from the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center the fact that the Egyptian press had reported that Hamas operatives played an active role in the uprising in Tahrir Square (something denied by Hamas). What is more, Hamas does seem to be involved in the launching of rockets out of Gaza now (much more on this below). So Hamas involvement cannot be ruled out.
We're going to need a spread sheet to keep track of all of this. For there are Bedouins active in terrorism in the Sinai as well, and there is an Al Qaeda presence. (An obscure Al Qaeda affiliated group, Mujahedeen Shura Council of Jerusalem, actually claimed responsibility for the Monday attack at the fence.)
What I'm most interested in is Rubin's larger point regarding possible cooperation of Islamic terrorists in Gaza with Islamists in Egypt. This should be not be taken lightly. The situation is in flux and increasingly radicalized, this does not promise a whole lot that's good at our border.
While I metaphorically allude to that spread sheet, I also want to point out that the various radical groups are not all autonomous and discrete. Sometimes they compete, but sometimes they overlap and cooperate in sharing of resources in order to bolster their mutual goals. What is more, disgruntled members of one radical group sometimes switch allegiance and join another group, thereby adding to its strength and expertise.
As to Gaza, since I last wrote, the situation has escalated. The last few times there have been rocket launchings from Gaza, Islamic Jihad has been responsible, not Hamas. Some while back I wrote about the eclipsing of Hamas by IJ, with Hamas having fallen out of favor with Iran.
And so at first, the current barrage of rockets was thought to be the work of IJ. But Hamas has taken some credit here, and we're going to have to watch what's going on.
Today alone more than 24 rockets and mortars have been fired at Israel. Some 50 have been launched since the attacks began on Monday. The Sdot Negev Regional Council, the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council, and the Eshkol Regional Council have all been involved. Sderot is once again in the line of fire.
Most of the rockets have been Kassams, but a Grad Katyusha struck the outskirts of Beersheva this morning, just as children had reached their schools.
Summer vacation is almost upon us, and parents in the region are reluctant to send their kids to school at all. Once again there is talk about having sufficient shelters for all. Sound familiar?
Some nine people have been injured -- one border policeman seriously -- and there has been damage to property.
An Iron Dome installation intercepted a rocket launched at Netivot.
Needless to say, the Israeli Air Force has launched several air strikes in the last few days. The most recent in the north of Gaza this evening, when two terror camps were hit.
Where is this going? Have no answers. Not yet.
Also an important part of the face of things to come: what has happened at the Ulpana neighborhood in Beit El.
The 30 families who are the residents of the five houses to be evacuated by the end of this month -- according to High Court order -- last evening struck a deal with the government, with the guidance, encouragement and support of the Rabbi of Beit El, Rav Zalman Baruch Melamed. Beit El mayor Moshe Rosenbaum was also involved, as was MK Ze'ev Elkin (Likud Faction and Coalition Chair). This represents the culmination of several days of negotiations.
Rav Melamed, who heads the Beit El Yeshiva, told his students on Monday:
"Sometimes, we must understand that there are battles that cannot be won. Therefore, it would be best to use this terrible low point for the betterment of all of Judea and Samaria."
Please G-d, if all proceeds per this agreement, there should be a gain for Judea and Samaria. But even beyond this, Rav Melamed had concern with regard to violence anticipated when the Ulpana residents were to be evicted, and he was eager to prevent this. As the Ulpana residents said in their statement:
“...we are peaceful people. Struggles between brothers tear the entire public, and our community in particular, apart."
For the dignity and the rightness of this stance, I applaud all of them.
But, as the residents also made clear, they have agreed with "a heavy heart," for there is an essential injustice that has been levied against these people that is not mitigated by the agreement.
The agreement in its essentials:
The residents will leave peacefully. They will temporarily reside in caravans (mobile homes). Their houses will not be destroyed, but will be moved to a new location. I was not able to learn what that intended location is (if indeed this has been determined yet). And there seems to be some question as to the logistical feasibility of actually moving those buildings. But this is the deal.
The government promises to construct 300 new houses in Beit El. This is major. It sets a precedent.
There has been no building in Beit El for some time -- no room for building. Now what has been decided is that an army base at the Beit El location will be moved to Migron (I'll address this at some other point), so that land for housing will now be available (as the property where the base is located will become civilian State land).
MK Elkin made it clear that there were attempts by opponents of building in Judea and Samaria to put up legal stumbling blocks to the building. But they have now been wiped away and there are no obstacles. Those legal objections, as I understand it, had to do with transfer of the military base to civilian use. But all of Beit El began as a military base.
My contact in Beit El tells me that the government agreement to do the building, complete with a timetable for construction, has been put in writing.
What seems to be the case is that back some weeks ago when Netanyahu first made the promise to construct 300 houses in Beit El, the legal barriers had not been defeated. That is, his promise at that point consisted of words (which is why I had picked up rumors that he wasn't serious). But now, I'm told, the situation is different.
The last concession by the government is also major: a ministerial committee will oversee building in Judea and Samaria and in the future, no decisions to demolish neighborhoods or communities are to be made by the government, the Attorney General or the Ministry of Defense.
This goes to the heart of the miscarriage of justice that occurred in this instance.
In brief, the High Court ordered the evacuation of the buildings in Ulpana because they were allegedly on "Palestinian land" before the issue of whether this is truly the case has been adjudicated. It is currently being reviewed by the Jerusalem District Court; the High Court does not deal with issues of evidence. It may take years for the District Court to examine all evidence, and in the end it may decide that the residents of Beit El were the property's true owners.
What makes this all the more surreal is that even if the court decides in favor of the Arab who is claiming it, the land will sit unoccupied by order of the IDF, because it is considered a security breach to allow Arab building in the heart of this Jewish community. This very strongly mitigates for compensation to the alleged owner, if his ownership were to be proved, rather than evacuation of the site.
The claim that the land was Palestinian Arab owned was brought by Yesh Din, a far left organization that is funded by foreign elements. That claim was made seven years after the building had been done in Ulpana -- it was not as if the alleged Arab owner saw the construction on his land begin and then rushed to do something about it. This alone gives pause.
The High Court relied upon the statement of the prosecutor, speaking in the name of the government, that the houses would be taken down. That prosecutor did not represent the sentiments of the Knesset or the coalition at that time.
Subsequently, when there was a furor about the projected evacuation of these houses, the prosecutor was sent back to the High Court in the name of the government to say that there had been a change in the government's position. The High Court refused to accept this, saying that the evacuation would stand. This is indicative of an imbalance in the system, and a Court that is predisposed politically in one direction.
For a description of this miscarriage, see commentator Moshe Dann's article, here:
For a more detailed description of what has transpired from the beginning and the way in which those in opposition to Jewish building in Judea and Samaria played the system, see this article by Baruch Gordon, Beit El resident, member of the Beit El Council, activist:
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